Inference of Homologous Recombination in Bacteria Using Whole Genome Sequences

X Didelot, DJ Lawson, A Darling, D Falush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteria and archaea reproduce clonally, but sporadically import DNA into their chromosomes from other organisms. In many of these events, the imported DNA replaces an homologous segment in the recipient genome. Here we present a new method to reconstruct the history of recombination events that affected a given sample of bacterial genomes. We introduce a mathematical model that represents both the donor and the recipient of each DNA import as an ancestor of the genomes in the sample. The model represents a simplification of the previously described coalescent with gene conversion. We implement a Monte Carlo Markov chain algorithm to perform inference under this model from sequence data alignments and show that inference is feasible for whole-genome alignments through parallelization. Using simulated data, we demonstrate accurate and reliable identification of individual recombination events and global recombination rate parameters. We applied our approach to an alignment of 13 whole genomes from the Bacillus cereus group. We find, as expected from laboratory experiments, that the recombination rate is higher between closely related organisms and also that the genome contains several broad regions of elevated levels of recombination. Application of the method to the genomic data sets that are becoming available should reveal the evolutionary history and private lives of populations of bacteria and archaea. The methods described in this article have been implemented in a computer software package, ClonalOrigin, which is freely available from
Translated title of the contributionInference of Homologous Recombination in Bacteria Using Whole Genome Sequences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1435 - 1449
Number of pages15
Volume186, issue 4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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